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Great Lakes Article:

Officials target sea lamprey for destruction
Biologists will try to rid Cheboygan River, local lakes of destructive parasite's larvae
By Rich Adams
Cheboygan Daily Tribune
08/25/03


CHEBOYGAN - The search for the destructive sea lamprey will continue this week.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assessment crew will conduct work on the Cheboygan River during a period from Tuesday until Sept. 4 to estimate the number of lampreys. The work will be conducted in the lower mainstream, Burt and Mullett lakes and the Black River.

In addition, crews will conduct assessment work on the Carp Lake River in Emmet County that was scheduled earlier this year but never completed, said Dennis Lavis with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service station in Ludington.

"A first step in the control of sea lamprey is to survey streams tributary to the Great Lakes," said Lavis.

Sea lamprey first invaded the Great Lakes in the 1920s and have been "a permanent, destructive element of the fishery every since," he stated.

"Sea lamprey attach to fish with a suction-cup mouth, rasp a hole through the fish's scales and skin, and feed on blood and body fluids," Lavis explained. "The average sea lamprey will destroy up to 40 pounds of fish during its parasitic stage."

Sea lampreys prey on all species of large Great Lakes fish such as lake trout, salmon, rainbow trout (steelhead), whitefish, chubs, burbot, walleye, catfish, and even sturgeon.

Sea lampreys have had an serious negative impact on the Great Lakes fishery, according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission Web site at www.glfc.org .

"Because sea lampreys did not evolve with naturally occurring Great Lakes fish species, their aggressive, predaceous behavior gave them a strong advantage over their native fish prey. Their aggressive feeding behavior contributed significantly to the collapse of fish species that were the economic mainstay of a vibrant Great Lakes fishery," states the Web site. "For example, before sea lampreys entered the Great Lakes, Canada and the United States harvested about 15 million pounds of lake trout in lakes Huron and Superior annually. By the early 1960s, the catch was only about 300,000 pounds. The fishery was devastated."

Sea lamprey hatch from eggs laid by adult lampreys in gravel nests, and drift into silty bottom areas where they burrow and live for several years, Lavis said. Also, larvae sometimes drift out of streams and settle in the immediate offshore areas near stream mouths. Failure to detect and eliminate larvae allows the lampreys to transform into parasitic adults and kill Great Lakes fish.

Lavis said fishery biologists and technicians conduct surveys for sea lamprey larvae in hundreds of streams each year.

"Most surveys are conducted by electrofishing, but in deep waters crews use Bayluscide 3.2 percent granula sea lamprey larvicide, a chemical approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Health Canada Pest Management Regulatory Agency," Lavis stated. "This lampricide is specially formulated onto sand granules and covered with a time-release coating. The formulation is sprayed over a measured surface area of water, where it sinks to the bottom, rapidly dissolves and causes the larval sea lampreys to leave their burrows and swim to the surface, where they are collected."

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